Local endorsements split in District 14 race between Reinbold, Kennedy
The Republican primary race for Eagle River’s House District 14 seat is dividing the local political scene between those who view the incumbent – Rep. Lora Reinbold – as a bold legislator standing up to the “Establishment” and those who view her as a lawmaker who is difficult for others to work with and thus an ineffective team player.
In an unprecedented move, two local sitting state legislators – Sen. Anna MacKinnon from State Senate District G and Rep. Dan Saddler from State House District 13 – have publicly endorsed the challenger Crystal Kennedy in the House District 14 race.
It’s a first in the local portion of state politics. In the past, sitting legislators have never endorsed a challenger.
In an email to The Star responding to sitting legislators endorse her opponent, Reinbold wrote, “My opponents endorsements are sparse and not the ones that matter. Reinbold for Alaska has the endorsement of key organizations, including the Eagle River District Republican Party, a unanimous endorsement from the State Republican Party, the Republican Assembly, and the National Rifle Association. I have broad support and endorsements from public officials and key leaders around Alaska, including former Senator Rick Halford, Senator Bill Stoltze, Assemblywoman Amy Demboski, and many others. I also have broad support from the residents of Eagle River, as indicated by individual endorsements, campaign contributions, and sign placement in the community. I am confident that the residents of Eagle River are going to send me back to Juneau once again because I represent their values, I kept my promise to shrink the footprint of big government, and I am committed to protecting their pocketbook.”
The endorsements by MacKinnon and Saddler add even more twists to a primary race that is dividing the Eagle River community as different current and former municipal and state officials line up in support of their pick between Reinbold and Crystal Kennedy, the challenger.
Phone robo calls featuring MacKinnon and Saddler were made at the end of last work week. Mailers featuring Kennedy with MacKinnon and Saddler were mailed to residences within Eagle River’s District 14 boundaries.
In the meantime, Assemblywoman Amy Demboski from Chugiak, retiring State Senator Bill Stoltze of Chugiak and Myranda Walso, challenger to Saddler in District 13, have publicly endorsed Reinbold.
On Aug. 10, Stoltze called in to the Amy Demboski radio show broadcast on Valley News Talk KVNT FM 92.5 and 1020 AM while Reinbold was the featured guest.
Stoltze said that if he lived in District 14 he would “reward principle” by voting for Reinbold.
“There is no ambiguity for me,” Stoltze said. “I don’t agree on everything with Lora, but I would vote for her.”
For MacKinnon and Saddler there also is no ambiguity in their opposition to Reinbold’s re-election.
The Star contacted both sitting legislators after the robo calls were sent out.
Here are their statements:
“The Eagle River legislative delegation has been most effective when we've had the unity and cooperation of all members, and that’s been missing in recent years. I made the call to support Crystal because the incumbent's inability to work in harmony with others, and her willingness to be provocative instead of productive, has actually made it harder for us to cut the budget or achieve other critical goals. Crystal understands that the key to legislative progress is cooperation, not confrontation. I think that will make her a better, more effective member of our team,” wrote Saddler in an email to The Star.
MacKinnon texted The Star the following: “Lora has marginalized herself. As a result, our district has been one member short on our team working for Eagle River. Crystal is a team player.”
MacKinnon and Kennedy have a lengthy working relationship dating back a couple of decades when their respective children attended the same elementary school and they both served on the parent-teacher organization. Both women were movers and shakers in the campaign to build Eagle River High School that opened in 2005.
In the robo call paid for by the Crystal Kennedy for State House campaign, MacKinnon and Saddler take turns speaking first identifying themselves.
MacKinnon then says, “On Tuesday, Aug 16th we urge you to vote for Crystal Kennedy in District 14.”
Saddler follows with this: “Neither one of us has ever endorsed a candidate over a sitting legislator before, however we need help in Juneau to solve the problems we face as Alaskans.”
While Saddler is clear regarding his disapproval regarding Reinbold’s legislative performance, his challenger in the District 13 race adamantly praises her on Facebook.
“For the record, I completely and enthusiastically am supporting Lora Reinbold in her efforts to keep fighting for Eagle River and to stand up to those in Juneau who are threatened by her and want instead to replace her with someone who will do as told and won't rock the boat. Lora is a genuine, honorable, and principled woman who I admire and whose example was one of the reasons I got involved in politics, because we need more voices like hers,” Walso wrote on her personal Facebook timeline.
Walso went on to describe Reinbold as “one of the hardest working and most dedicated public servants (that) will never stop trying to fight for those she represents and for the value we share.” Walso also “thanked” Reinbold for her “willingness to deal with all the negativity and lack of privacy that comes with the job.”
Demboski also lines up with Walso in supporting Reinbold, although she admits her initial intentions were not to comment on the House District 14 race.
Demboski told The Star via email that the Kennedy/Reinbold race is awkward for her because she likes both candidates.
However, after Randy Ruedrich called in to the Rick Rydell show broadcast on Alaska’s News Talk Radio on 650 KENI to “attack Reinbold,” Demboski said she needed to speak up.
“It became clear to me what was going on and I thought it was time someone spoke up, set the record straight and sent a clear message that politics as usual and the good ole boys, need to stay out of Eagle River races,” she said. “This race is for the voters of Eagle River to decide, not House leadership from Anchorage or the Kenai.”
Demboski further stated that under Kennedy’s three terms on the Anchorage School Board, the ASD budget more than doubled.
“Considering the largest issue we are facing is the budget, the real question Eagle River voters have to decide is whether you want to send someone with a proven track record of getting along, which has led to almost a billion dollar annual budget for ASD, or do you want Lora Reinbold, a proven fiscal conservative who may ruffle a few feathers, but in the end we know will stand firm on fiscal issues and won't waiver when she is tasked with doing what the voters sent her to Juneau to do?” Demboski wrote in her email to The Star.
The Kennedy campaign countered against the school budget criticism stating the school district is dependent on a complicated state funding formula the board has no control over.
“It (the budget) absolutely did increase,” Kennedy said.
She added that increase was not within her control.
“However, what people need to understand is that the school districts in this state within organized local governments such as Anchorage are told by the state what their funding would be. The authority over funding comes from the state and from the local government. That is by state statute and by local charter. The school board just gets to decide where to put the money to get the best bang for the buck,” Kennedy told The Star.
Also endorsing Kennedy are: Fred Dyson, who was Eagle River’s state senator for 12 years from 2003 to 2014 and representative from 1997 to 2002; Randy Phillips, Eagle River’s state representative from 1977 to 1993 and state senator from 1993 to 2003; Debbie Ossiander, Anchorage Assembly woman representing the Chugiak area from 2004 to 2013; Kim Skipper, chief of staff to Saddler; Elisa Snelling, Anchorage School Board member from Eagle River; Bill Starr, current Anchorage Assembly member representing Eagle River; John Steiner, former Anchorage School Board member and Larry Wood, a retired attorney who ran against Reinbold in 2012.
Reinbold’s other endorsements include the Republican State Central Committee. According to the blog The Midnight Sun by Casey Reynolds, who was the communications director for the Alaska Republican Party from 2008 to 2011, Reinbold secured that endorsement prior to Kennedy’s filing for candidate status with a margin of only one vote more in her favor.
Robert Timmins, former chair for House District 14 and member of the Municipal Taxpayers’ League, and the Veterans Party of Alaska have endorsed Reinbold.
In other local election drama, Stoltze also clarified on the Amy Demboski show that he would be comfortable voting for any of the three candidates in the Republican primary.
Voting hours tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 16, are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Early voting is still available today, Monday, Aug. 15, at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center until 5 p.m.
Find your polling place online at www.elections.alaska.gov/vi_w_polls.php.